Parting with junk is such sweet sorrow

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Some years ago I had a rather soft spot for a crazy old man called Mr Trebus; he was the reluctant star of a television documentary series where urban local authority workers took on the unpleasant task of clearing away accumulated garbage from houses where the occupiers were either unwilling to do it for themselves or had moved on without taking the trouble to redd up their rubbish.

There are not many towns where this situation does not occur to one extent or another; it even happens in Selkirk occasionally – maybe it is a sign that modern society is going quietly potty.

In the case of Mr Trebus the huge amount of stuff he had gathered over many years was clearly evidence of a form of obsessive/compulsive disorder, something not considered rare these days. He gamely defended his cherished trash against the council workers who had a dickens of a job to make any progress on the mountain of junk in and around his house as Mr Trebus berated and cursed at them in several languages. It was clearly a health hazard so the stuff had to go.

If I recall correctly, poor old Mr T eventually fell ill and ended his days in care within a short time; I suspect he died of a broken heart, with enforced cleanliness an ancillary cause.

In copping days, I stumbled upon several cases where some folk might have run Mr Trebus a close second in garbage acquisition. The main difference was that as long as someone else would undertake the shifting of the stuff, they were more or less happy, thus proving the essential difference between those who are driven to collect society’s discards and those who are just too bone idle to clean up after themselves.

As the years pass I have become increasingly honest about the way I lead my life and own up to some but not all of my faults and funny little ways.

That is why documentary programmes about hoarders now bring out a tinge of guilt in my mind as I survey some of the stuff I keep in and around my home.

For a start, I hoard shedloads of books on a very wide range of subjects, some of which I confess I will never read, but still they clog up my bookshelves. One day soon I am sure I will be forced to carry out a strict cull of my library stock. In Selkirk we have a bit of a head start on other towns as we have a firm that will usually take care of anyone’s excess bookage, recycling or reselling them in a bright and professional manner.

I took a decent load down to what was once the old Burn Mill council depot last week and can rest assured those volumes suitable for disposal will go on to entertain more people, while the really far gone stuff will go for pulping and maybe return to us all as bog paper or similar.

The more likely use for recycled paper of this kind is often as home insulation, although I could be corrected on this point.

With winter fast approaching, working on my fleet of erratic vehicles outdoors won’t be a whole load of fun, so I thought it was high time I looked at my workshop and got to work on a good old fashioned clear-out of non-essential stuff.

It has been difficult work, with some awful decisions to make as to which of my little treasures are kept and those destined for the skip.

It is a slow process and I expect to lose concentration sometime soon, which means the job will stagnate for a while, creating a danger period as more junk could arrive at any time.

I am spurred on by the unwelcome thought of servicing vehicles in cold and wet conditions which plays hell with my increasingly arthritic joints, so I suppose I should take comfort from the idea of a warm workshop for those dark days and nights.

But it is not all bad news; I have burrowed into several dusty piles of stuff and all the wee nooks and crannies of my workshop with an enthusiasm not seen around here for many years. Lo and behold, I have unearthed all manner of kit I thought I had lost forever.

Chief among them has been a variety of spanners, screwdrivers etc, which, having fallen down behind the work bench, I tended to ignore, just reaching out a hand for another one from my tool chest.

With virtually criminal idleness, I confess to just buying more tools when I had finally lost enough to exhaust the supply. Isn’t that so sad? I now realise I have rather more tools than I thought, but they never go wrong as it is only a matter of time before the whole darned process starts over again.

Given the modern zeal for recycling, very little of my throw-out heap will end up in landfill. Metal, glass, paper and plastic will all find a new life somewhere, probably in China, where all forms of raw material still command good prices. I still think it is a loony scheme to send trash half way round the world, but that’s the way it goes.

I imagine any form of serious recycling in the UK will always attract the stoppits who can be relied on to invent reasons why almost anything is bad for the planet.

What they cannot be made to see is the folly of shipping stuff long distances when the processes involved can be undertaken in this country, creating jobs and revenue, while also taking steps to limit unnecessary pollution.

The very existence of human beings is a form of planetary pollution, so making false targets for society’s ills is futile.

Maybe that nice Mr Osbourne should slap a tax on gloomy predictions; it might not yield much money but it would cheer us all up no end.